Return to Transcripts main page


Two Trump Critics Debate Whether Dems Should Pursue Impeachment; Barr Claims No Evidence of Trump Shredding Institutions; Ocasio-Cortez And Cruz Team Up to Ban Ex-Lawmakers from Lobbying; R. Kelly Hit with More Serious Charges in Sex Abuse Case; Shelter Cares for Pets of Domestic Abuse Victims. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] YONI APPELBAUM, WROTE "IMPEACH TRUMP NOW" FOR THE ATLANTIC: It didn't result in the removal of a President. It did result in the termination of his political aspirations.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So there is your parallel scenario. David, back over to you. We've heard Speaker Pelosi this week essentially saying she thinks Trump is goading Democrats to impeach him. Do you think he actually wants to be impeached?

DAVID FRUM, WRITER, "THE WISEST REMEDY IS NOT IMPEACHMENT": No. He's -- he doesn't play the game with such complex moves. Nancy Pelosi there may be doing reverse psychology of her own on the Democrats. He's just a naked ma of need. And so I --

BALDWIN: A naked ma of need. OK.

FRUM: I take him completely literally when he says he finds it obscene and disgusting because he can't bear any kind of criticism let alone an impeachment. But it doesn't matter what he wants. The question is what will be the strategic outcome at the end of this process? This is a very dangerous President. And I think you need to take that danger seriously when deciding how are you going to protect the country from him.

One last point about -- Andrew Johnson, during those years, was a President who was hated by the army. At a time when much of the country was occupied by the army. The generals were Republicans, Johnson was a Democrat at the time. When party politics ran strong in the army and eventually the army replaced Johnson with one of his own, Ulysses Grant. Donald trump commands support from a lot of sections of American opinion. And we need to be very clear-eyed about the road we may be going down.

BALDWIN: Yoni, yes or not. Did David change your mind?

APPLEBAUM: Not yet. There is a matter of basic duty here and I think that we have to keep our eye on the ball there.

BALDWIN: David, did Yoni change your mind.

FRUM: Yoni should change everybody's mind. We all learned from Yoni, whether or not we happen to agree because he wrote the magisterial piece on this. But I may be --


FRUM: I may be the more anxious person here but I can always imagine such bad outcomes that I want to be really careful about what I do next.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, welcome to the next year and a half. David and Yoni, thank you both so much. Coming up next here on CNN, a case of very strange bed fellows in Washington. Hear whey liberal Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and conservative Senator Ted Cruz may be teaming up.

Plus the Democratic party is now insisting that every debate include a female moderator. How that might change the dynamic.


BALDWIN: In a new interview, Attorney General Bill Barr attacks President Trump's critics saying they are the ones shredding institutions. His word, not Trump.


BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think one of the ironies today is that people are saying that it's President Trump that is shredding our institutions and I see no evidence of that. From my perspective, the idea of resisting a Democratically elected President and basically throwing everything at him and really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this President, that is where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.


BALDWIN: Gloria Borger is CNN's chief political analyst. I know, because we've seen Trump go after the FBI, the CIA, his national security team. How can Bill Barr say this with a straight face?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there is a technical term for this, Brooke and it is called chutzpah. Which is I have absolutely no idea how he says this. I was making myself a little list. You made yourself a little list. Let's talk about shredding the institution of the presidency. Of the Department of Justice which he treats as his own attorneys.

Of the judicial branch, by attacking judges. On foreign policy, criticizing allies, threatening to leave NATO, calling for troop removal from Syria without consulting people who work for him, his cabinet or our allies, defending a dictator, over a former Vice President, I could go on and take up the rest of your show, but I won't. So I understand what Barr is saying, which is that he believes that there is resistance, that just wants to get rid of Trump because they don't like him.

But the list I gave you shows that there is a serious constitutional debate going on in this country which I think he was belittling. BALDWIN: How about the next one, file this also under record scratch.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they just became a match made on Twitter. When they said they would work together on the bill to ban former lawmakers from taking paid lobbying positions. Ocasio-Cortez said she would spearhead the effort with him and his reply is all caps, YOU'RE ON.

Cruz and AOC are diametrically opposed on everything from the green new deal to raising minimum wage, my question to you is, is this like a pigs flying moment? Is this going to happen? What is the deal?

BORGER: No, it is not going to happen. It is very nice that they agree on something. And it is clear that they want to reform Congress and make sure that it is not a revolving door and people just don't punch a ticket so they can earn money when they leave. But it is one of those things that people say, you know, I'm going to vote for until the vote comes.

[15:40:00] And we've seen Congress become more of a revolving door. People don't want to become career politicians anymore. So they punch in and then they go outside and they make some money. There are some lobbying rules regarding the executive branch. But I think Congress needs some rules. I doubt this is going to happen.

BALDWIN: Lastly, Gloria Borger, Refinery29 is reporting that the DNC will require all 12 Presidential primary debates include at least one female moderator. There are a record six women running for President. And past debates have featured women as moderators but this would make it a requirement. Can we say together, amen?

BORGER: Yes. I'm sort of wondering, though, Brooke, and I don't know about you, I'm kind of wondering why this has to be a publicly stated rule.


BORGER: A requirement. And say, you know, OK, you have to have a woman.

BALDWIN: Totally.

BORGER: One would assume that women would be on the list. They've been on the list before and that in private discussions women's names are being raised. But it is interesting to me that now this becomes a point of public discussion.

BALDWIN: Maybe this will make it so. Gloria Borger, thank you, thank you.

Coming up next, a new slate of charges against R&B singer R. Kelly. Details alleged of sexual abuse against a girl who was under 18. We will have reaction from his lawyer and details on what he's been doing in the three months since he was first indicted.

[15:45:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Graduates at Wellesley College received a lesson on leading their own Me-Too movements from law professor Anita Hill while giving today's keynote, professor Hill spoke about the prevalence of sexual misconduct and the urgent need for women to keep speaking out and raising voices.


ANITA HILL, COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER AT WELLESLEY COLLEGE: I'm here because in 1991 under the glare of intense political scrutiny and media scrutiny, I shared more of the whole of what it is like to be a woman, to be black and to be a black woman facing sexual harassment than anyone has done before. And yet there are those who would have us believe that the stories and statistics showing the prevalence of sexual misconduct are a hoax.

They prefer to believe in their own myths, often misogynist, about the behavior. And despite the evidence, sexual misconduct deniers have friends in high places. But not just that place.


BALDWIN: She also challenged the grads to work toward closing the gender and race wealth gap.

The criminal case against embattled R&B singer R. Kelly is expanding, Kelly has just been hit with a new round of sexual assault charges that land him in prison for up to 30 years, and some more serious than the ten-count indictment in February. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office filed an 11-count indictment that includes sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse charges. That is the most serious charge you can get in the state of Illinois.

And at least three of them involved an alleged underage victim. Kelly, as you well know, denying any misconduct and he remains free on bail from the earlier charges. His attorney said this new indictment, quote, "changes nothing." Jamilah Lemieux, Chicago native who appeared in Lifetime docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly" is with me and a writer and communication strategist and former senior editor at "Ebony" magazine.

So welcome back, and nice to see you. When you then saw this new round of charges you thought what?

JAMILAH LEMIEUX, APPEARED IN "SURVIVING R. KELLY" DOCUSERIES: I thought finally. Just as I did in February, I'm somebody who is incredibly critical, if not distrustful of the criminal justice system. I am still heartened to know under the guidance of State's Attorney Kim Foxx the allegations against Robert Kelly are finally being taken seriously and I think we're closer than ever to getting justice for the many, many victims who are out there that have been taken advantage of by this predator.

BALDWIN: You spoke before about how you think the reason why this took so long to gain any traction is because it involved young black girls and people weren't paying attention but now more and more women are coming forward. Why do you think that is?

[15:50:00] LEMIEUX: I think the doors have been opened. The Me-Too movement under the leadership of Tarana Burke of course has certainly made it I think easier for people to talk about these things. And there have been women coming forward with stories about R. Kelly for years and they weren't being heard or believed or taken seriously. When you have a volume of accusers like this, it is much like with the situation with Bill Cosby, it is -- he said, she said when there is one or two or three but we're talking about accusers now in the dozens.

There are so many stories out there that have been documented by Buzzfeed, by the Lifetime documentary, by folks simply coming forward and saying, I'm going to file a civil suit against Robert. I'm going to come forward and talk to a journalist about my story. That's empowering other people to come forward and say, you know what? This happened to me, too. And the shame doesn't belong to the victim. It belongs to the person who is responsible for it.

And for all of the enablers, the handlers, the executives, the people in the music industry who protected him.

BALDWIN: R. Kelly was dropped from his label. He isn't making any money performing. He has tried to get court approval to travel abroad to perform. That hasn't happened yet. What does justice look like in this case for these girls?

LEMIEUX: I think it seems to be the consensus of many of the victims that they want to see R. Kelly behind bars. You know? There are some victims that have talked about wanting him to heal, to get counseling, to get services that will help him become a better person. And I'm certainly in favor of that, too, but I think that he represents a very distinct danger to society. I think that there are women and girls that are in danger, so long as he's able to have access to them. And while this is an outcome that I very rarely believe in endorsing, I think the best place for R. Kelly to be is behind bars.

BALDWIN: Jamilah Lemieux, good to see you.

LEMIEUX: You too.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

We are moments from the closing bell. Nine minutes to go. The Dow is down just over 300 points. This is after the President announced he is adding tariffs on all imports from Mexico. Details on how that could impact your budget.


BALDWIN: I want to take a moment on this Friday afternoon to honor this week's CNN hero. Staci Alonzo created a full-service animal shelter to care for pets of domestic violence, domestic abuse victims. Only 3 percent of shelters will actually accept these animals, so she is stepping in to fill that void.


STACI ALONZO, CNN HERO: Noah's Animal House is built right on the campus of the women's shelters.

Good boy.

So that women fleeing an abusive relationship don't have to choose between leaving and leaving their pets behind. We have had clients from 21 states. They're driving thousands of miles. That tells you the need and that tells you the power of the relationship between the woman and the pet. When you watch the woman come through the door and then they see their pet.


ALONZO: And everything's right in the world for a little while.


BALDWIN: Good on her. You can see how Staci is saving lives. Or if you would like to nominate your own hero, which we would love for you to do, go to

And we are in the season of commencement speeches and caps and gowns, so let's end this week with a big bravo to some special graduates. They had to overcome so much on the long road to their degrees. And it comes at a time when we have been outraged by all the illegal shortcuts taken in that college admissions scam. Recently for the first time, a guilty parent spoke out publicly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm deeply ashamed. I'm terribly sorry.


BALDWIN: So, while some wealthy parents cheated the system, here's one grad for you. Tupac Mosley played by all the rules and beat it in a big way. The Tennessee high school valedictorian earned $3 million -- $3 million -- in scholarships and did much of it while homeless. Mosley is heading to Tennessee State to study electrical engineering. And when asked about achieving his 4.3 GPA with so much against him, he tried to turn the spotlight away from himself.


TUPAC MOSLEY, VALEDICTORIAN WHO WAS HOMELESS: A lot of people say the strength came from within myself, but I honestly would like to give more credit to all of those around me, all the people at school, my family members, my friends. They all have been a great support to me.


BALDWIN: Tupac has never met Elbie Seibert, but they have a lot in common. Seibert also top of his class, made history as the first-ever student at his Idaho high school to attend an ivy league university. He will be going to Brown on a full ride from four scholarships. But Seibert missed giving his valedictorian speech at graduation because his dad, a janitor, passed away from bladder cancer. Seibert helped care for him in his final months and Seibert's mother suffers from cerebral palsy.

But he wrote in a CNN piece, that he, quote, never saw my circumstances as forms of adversity. Instead, Seibert thanks his parents for shaping him into the man he is today. And thanks, is exactly what Erica Alfaro gave to her parents through this photo. The daughter of immigrant field workers, a former teen mom, a former high school dropout and domestic abuse survivor, she just earned her master's degree in education from San Diego State. It took her a couple of extra years, but she says what drove her forward was a conversation with her mom.


ERICA ALFARO, GRADUATE: And that memory was very powerful. Because the day that I went to work with my mom, when I told her that I was tired, she said, this is our life. The only people that have a good life are the ones that have a good education.


BALDWIN: So a massive heartfelt congratulations on this Friday to Erica and Elbie and Tupac. There are so, so many others we wanted to profile. These are exceptional students giving us all a refresher course on what perseverance can achieve.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Have wonderful weekends. Let's go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.